Finding the threshold of when you're doing too much work for others.
August 1, 2013 1:09 AM   Subscribe

I just started working at a medical supply company the past 2 months. I was fortunate to land the gig after being laid off from my previous job of 8 years. I have a pretty simple role: Call the doctor offices/clinics/hospitals and etc in order to obtain the necessary docs for insurance billing. We have moved into our own building in July, and our phone system has changed. Recently, I've been taking a lot of phone calls that belongs to other departments. I end up troubleshooting the issue for the patient before eventually transferring the call to the appropriate party. At times when I put the patient on hold and call one of my co-workers to explain what is going on, it seems like they don't want to take the call thus they tell me what to say or do. It's one of the more frustrating things at times when you're still new and trying to figure things out promptly without coming off as a total newbie. Every time I approach a certain person at work, she jokingly says "you're not looking for me right"? As much as I'd like to resolve an issue over the phone, I don't want to compromise my specific job duties for the sake of other people's convenience in not taking inbound calls. Maybe I just have to learn from experience on not biting more than I can chew in regards to the type of circumstance taking place. Anyone's 2 cents on the matter is much appreciated as always.
posted by tnar23 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
From your question I am not entirely clear if you're doing what you are supposed to be doing or if you're doing what other people are supposed to be doing, in addition to what you're doing, by allowing them not to take the call.

If the latter don't let them make you the intermediary, just go "I have x on the line regarding y, i'll transfer them now" and then you transfer the call and put the phone down your end....don't give your shirking colleagues the opportunity to palm their work off on you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:15 AM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Transfer the phone calls that belong to other departments TO THEM. Don't try to troubleshoot; that's what the other department is supposed to do, right? That's why the patient is calling, to have "the appropriate party" solve their problem.

I can see why your coworkers don't want to take the call: if it isn't for them, it isn't their job. If it IS their job, then transfer it to them and stop doing their job for them.
posted by easily confused at 2:24 AM on August 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


koahiatamadl's script is good. Or if that's going to make you seem too pushy - tell them that if they can't/won't talk to the caller, then you'll take a message. And then give the caller the appropriate details of who they need to speak to (assuming that it is OK for you to do this - check the company's policy).

Also, you should talk to the caller just enough to figure out whether you're the person they are after, and if not, who is. This will get easier when you've been there a bit longer.

Have you told your supervisor that this is happening? If calls are being wrongly routed say by the switchboard operator or people dialing old numbers because eg the website hasn't been updated, then management might want to know.

If it's a real problem - eg it takes up a significant amount of time away from your real work, then document how many of these calls you get, how long it takes to deal with them, and if there are any particular people who try to avoid calls. Then you can go to your supervisor and say, "I spend an average of X minutes/hours per day dealing with incoming calls which aren't for me. Because of this, I can't do my actual job effectively. Is this how you want me to spend my time?"
posted by pianissimo at 2:28 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Recently, I've been taking a lot of phone calls that belongs to other departments. I end up troubleshooting the issue for the patient before eventually transferring the call to the appropriate party.

There are two issues there:

1) you receiving those calls to begin with (sounds like an issue for IT)
2) you troubleshooting those calls (probably to figure out where they are trying to get to). I appreciate that you want to put the patients first and get them to the right place, however you should not be asking any more information than where they are looking to reach. As hard as that can be.

At times when I put the patient on hold and call one of my co-workers to explain what is going on, it seems like they don't want to take the call thus they tell me what to say or do.

Who cares if they want to take the call? If they are the right person, then transfer the call to them. It helps to be a bit aggressive about it. It is their job, not yours. It sounds like what's happening here is "kindness creep", which is you were nice a few times, in taking the calls for them. Now they have learned that you will continue to take the calls for them. Rather than ask them if you can transfer a call, tell them that you are transferring a call.

It's one of the more frustrating things at times when you're still new and trying to figure things out promptly without coming off as a total newbie.

It's an ego thing. You don't want to be seen a newbie, when in fact, you are a newbie. So you sound like you are doing the best you can to cover, and keep all the plates in the air. As a manager there is a BIG PROBLEM with this. That is, if you don't let the gaps show, then they can't fix them. If your performance starts decreasing because of an operational issue, that is going to reflect on you in two ways. 1) your performance is low, and 2) because you were doing work you shouldn't have been doing.

As hard as it can be, sometimes you have to let things break so that your managers can see their broken. You want them to ask, what is the problem with these calls to which the better answer is calls keep coming in that don't belong here. I do what I can if it's really important, but otherwise, it's definitely an issue that should be looked at.

The ego is funny because it will tell you to be the hero and never say no. To be part of the team and make everything happen. Yet, your coworkers are showing you that the company culture is to only focus on what your role is. They are very good at letting things fall, for they have learned that the path to success is doing their specific job, and letting other people do theirs. That is an indicator that hero performance will probably not be rewarded.

In terms of what to do? Sit down with your supervisor and explain the problem about lots of errant calls coming in, and then ask them what they would like you to do about. Put it in an email so it's documented that you raised the issue (and thus didn't ignore it), and let management figure out what they would like to do.
posted by nickrussell at 2:57 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's your motivation for not letting things continue as they are:

It is VERY frustrating to the customer (who is calling because they have a problem, something is already wrong) when they go to length to explain the reason they are calling, get a few minutes into the long story to only THEN be told "Sorry, I'm not the one you need to talk to.", and then have to tell the whole store AGAIN to the next person.

Use the script above the moment you realize you're not the one they need to talk to, every single time. You're not doing folks any favors by taking up their time when you really can't help them.

Also, do a quick e/mail to your supervisor and whoever is in charge of the phone system that simply says "For some reason calls for other departments are coming to my desk, in the interest of good service to our customers it might be worthwhile to correct this."
posted by HuronBob at 3:07 AM on August 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


When you receive a call that's not for you, simply say, "I'm sorry, let me get you to the right person" then transfer the call.

Now, is there a receptionist? If so, transfer there. If it's for service, transfer it there.

For SURE, you need to discuss this with your manager because your extension shouldn't be the same as the main number for the company.

Now, are you getting the calls because someone is pressing the wrong extension number? If so, find out what extension is close to yours and just transfer the calls there.

Are you getting the calls because the automated system is programmed incorrectly? Get that sorted out with IT ASAP!

Managers can't fix problems they don't have visibility to. Go talk to your manager NOW!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:26 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it isn't clear how the calls are getting to you, ask the people calling. Were they given your number specifically? Did someone transfer them there? Figure that out and then correct it.

Talk to your manager about the problem. Ask them how they would like you to handle it. Then do whatever your manager tells you to do. It probably will be to just transfer them to the right number. Use the "I have x on the line regarding y, i'll transfer them now" script as described above. Don't give the person you are transferring them to a chance to continue to put the work on you. If this isn't your job and if this is impacting your ability to do your job, then don't do it.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:15 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's another script that might help. I worked help desk for awhile, and half the time the people calling didn't need me, they needed someone from the partner group (account billing).

Me: Thank you for calling XYZ, this is RogueTech. How can I help you?
Client: My account lapsed and I need to re-up.
Me: Ok, let me transfer you to Account Billing, they'll be able to help you. In case we get disconnected, you can reach me directly at 800-888-8888 extension 1234.
Client: 800-888-8888 extension 1234. Got it.
Me: Ok, I'm transferring you now.

Coworker: Hi RogueTech, what's up?
Me: I have a Client on the phone calling about a lapsed account.
Coworker: Ok thanks, I'll take it from here.



By giving your direct line, the client feels like they can get back to a real person, and you feel like you haven't given them the runaround. I did have people call me back, occasionally, if they felt like they'd gotten the runaround, but it was maybe 1 out of every 100 times.

Occasionally I'd have coworkers who wouldn't pick up, or who would get into a fight over whose job it was. Here's that script:

Coworker: Hi RogueTech, what's up?
Me: I have a Client on the phone calling about a lapsed account.
Coworker: I'm busy, can't you deal with it?
Me: You know they don't give IT access to finances. I can't access billing.
Coworker: *sigh* fine.

Or:
Me: I'm sorry you're overworked, but I haven't been trained to handle billing. I need you to take this call.


or something along those lines. I agree with HuronBob that in your desire to provide customer service, you might actually be making the customer more frustrated. And as others have stated, you should talk with your manager, if for no other reason than to make sure that you're doing what you should be doing. If your other coworkers get prickly, a sedate "I checked with Manager, she recommended forwarding the calls to you" should do it.
posted by RogueTech at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I end up troubleshooting the issue for the patient before eventually transferring the call to the appropriate party.

Never do this. The troubleshooting. Especially since you have to transfer. As others are saying, you can end up making things more annoying for the customer and you are taking on work that is simply not yours to take on.

I agree that you should iron out ASAP why these calls are coming to you all of a sudden and get them to stop.

You've clearly done a very good job so far but, as you've discerned, this other work is taking you away from your job description. Eventually, this will come back to bite you on the ass, hard. None of those people who you are helping are going to stand up for you when you get in trouble for not doing your job by overreaching into their job. Be good-natured but firm when people try to get you do to their job. If you came to my desk and I sighed, "Oh no, not more work!" that could very well just be me blowing off steam (somewhat inappropriately). It doesn't mean that you should just quietly take on my job duties. You might look into the "ask verses guess culture" discussions here on mefi.
posted by amanda at 2:51 PM on August 1, 2013


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